He’s a dud in the bedroom

Happy Leap Day.

We have an extra day this month, so shouldn't we have an extra letter?

We won't chat today, but check back at 1 p.m. for a link (right here) to a Leap Letter.

Hi Meredith,

I've been dating my boyfriend for a little more than a year and a half. He's 33; I'm 27. We were casual acquaintances for about two years before we started dating, and are fairly serious now. I love him for many reasons, including his sense of humor, his love of sports, his intelligence, his love of dogs, his sociable and extroverted nature, and his unconditional support of me in whatever endeavor I've undertaken. However (and of course there is a however), he is terrible in bed. Our sex life is an absolute dud.

It was incredibly underwhelming right from the start, but he had enough good qualities for me to want to work through this issue. He is a former frat boy and spent his college (and post-college) years with a variety of ladies who he obviously did not try to please. Before me, as he admitted himself, his standard operating procedure was to take, take, take, not give. I told him the status quo was not going to cut it with me, and he has since tried very hard to be a giving partner. At first he complained a lot about back pain, and he blamed that for why our sex life had to be very simple. But then he and I got to exercising together, and dropped a significant amount of weight. His performance got significantly better for months, but the last couple have seen us right back where we started. He's been blaming back/hip/leg pain for his inability to perform, or whatever other physical excuse he can find, and it's making me feel awful. He plays a competitive sport a few times a week and he runs regularly with me, but nothing changes in the bedroom.

I feel ugly and undesirable most of the time we are intimate because I'm not getting what I need from him in this setting, and no matter how many conversations we have about it (outside of the bedroom, usually, when things are calm and there's no pressure to perform at hand), no lasting changes have been made. I'm tired of breaking down in tears after yet another failed attempt, and this is becoming a deal-breaker. I don't know how to fix it. I am out of ideas. Please help.

– Tears in the Bedroom

There are many variations of "simple," TITB. Try to figure out other ways that "simple" can work for both of you. I mean, I can't run on pavement or flat surfaces for more than a few minutes, but that doesn't mean I have to stick to the elliptical machine at the gym. I can also do that stair climber machine, and I can walk at an incline on a treadmill. I can also do the elliptical machine backwards without aggravating with my shin splits. Catch my drift?

I'm sure that a sex therapist would have a lot to say about this, but as a brain-focused person, I'm mostly worried about your self-esteem, his apathy, and what the bedroom issue means about your relationship. So much of great physical intimacy is about eye contact, emotional bonding, and the ability to be playful with a partner. It sounds like you're missing some of that big stuff, and maybe not just in the bedroom.

As you try to redefine "simple," please spend some time thinking about whether you feel intimacy in your daily emotional life. Yes, he's a great guy with a dog and a sense of humor, but is there real chemistry in your relationship? Is there a romantic, intimate bond? Or is he basically a fantastic friend who signed on to be your boyfriend? Something tells me that the tears are about the big picture. Please take some time to think about all of it before you decide what counts as a deal-breaker.

Readers? It sounds like she's already approached this guy about their bedroom problems in a thoughtful way. What else can she do? And what's the other side of the story here? Is this just about their sex life? Discuss.

– Meredith